It’s from a blog entry I posted in 2007. Although the details are now old, I think the sentiment is relevant.
This incident: http://www.breastfeeding.com/forum/showthreaded.php?Number=1586015, (the thread is no longer there, but a mother in an Applebee’s was asked to cover up while breastfeeding) triggered a national nurse-out. I developed a terrible head cold, and was unable to make the one in Wichita, but I was able to be at the home of the local organizer when the ABC affiliate interviewed her in advance of it last night.
This of course sparked the usual discussion of whether a national event was necessary when it was one manager at one Applebee’s in one city.The reason the nurse-out occurred in the first place is not the reponse of the Lexington Applebee’s, although it was totally inappropriate. The reaction is to the asinine corporate response that they will consider keeping blankets on hand for nursing mothers to use. Such a response displays an obvious lack of any knowledge of breastfeeding other than it involves a breast.My two immediate reactions to the idea of the restaurant keeping blankets:1) Gross. I have no idea where their nasty blanket has been.2) Breastfeeding is normal and appropriate. The person reacting so strongly to the knowledge or sight of a child breastfeeding is the one with the issue, not the nursing mom. No blanket necessary. Get over yourself, acknowledge that not being offended isn’t a right, and avert thine eyes if it’s going to cause issues.Invariably, discretion is brought up with much emphasis when nursing in public is discussed. It annoys me when it is automatically assumed that the nursing mom was flashing it around for everyone to see. Honestly, who does that?I have never known a nursing mom to “whip it out” and wave everything around for restaurant display. It’s very common, very possible, and very normal for a woman to be discreet without a blanket. FWIW, I’m not particularly worried if someone sees a bit of breast doing its intended job. I am more concerned about the side and belly fat.I, personally, have never used a blanket, and never will. It’s hot, impractical, and a general PITA, not to mention my children won’t tolerate it. Who enjoys eating with a blanket over their head? The only thing a blanket has ever done, in my experience, is wave a giant baby print flannel flag that screams “HEY! BREASTFEEDING HERE!” I think that defeats the purpose, don’t you?It’s important to note that the same people who shriek, “Use a blanket!” are often disturbed by the very idea of breastfeeding, regardless of the level of discretion. Heck, a good friend of mine was kicked out of the common breakroom at her work for breastfeeding under a nursing cover (like this one: http://www.growinglife.com/images/images-nursingacc/nursingcape.jpg). The only thing visible was the baby’s hand, playing with her mother’s chin. The next day, she brought a bottle and no one said a word. I think that’s absolutely pathetic, and shows how totally screwed up our society is with regards to the subject of a child being fed.More on the topic of breastfeeding and sexuality. The overwhelming majority of men I’ve interacted and spoken with, and specifically discussed this topic with, are not turned on or otherwise sexually aroused by the sight of a nursing mother. Nursing breasts are working breasts, not playing breasts. It’s all about context.I’m an anatomy nut. I like Discovery Channel shows. PBS specials have never really bothered me. Should I ever get ahold of a full, leather-bound edition of Gray’s Anatomy, I shall be a happy woman. I enjoyed Anatomy and Physiology lab. The cadaver lab taught me a ton about the human body. Body parts are fascinating.I must admit it. It was initially jarring to walk into the room and see a dead, naked man lying on the table. At the time, as a newlywed, I was very used to seeing the penis, but I was used to it in a sexual context. Not as simply part of a body. My natural tendency, upon seeing parts normally covered by clothes, is to avert my eyes. In the case of the lab, I had to stop, assess my surroundings, and change my mindset from the one that associates the penis with sex, to the mindset of “just another body part.” It was okay for me to do that. It’s okay for a man to do that in the presence of a breastfeeding mom.Part of the kneejerk “augh” reaction is the superimposition of what is “supposed” to be sexual with the innocence of childhood. It makes sense, and I think it’s actually healthy (the immediate disgust reaction of the idea of children and sexuality). I think it is, in part, the realization that the breasts they’ve just seen aren’t turning them on like they’re “supposed” to, which, in this society, is not looked at as very manly (What, boobs don’t turn you on? Weirdo). It’s asking a man to change his mindset from “breasts = sexy and for men” to “breasts = functional and for babies”. That’s a lot. But it is absolutely appropriate to require that mindset change of men. The hypersexualization of our culture is in large part, what has demeaned breastfeeding, and attempted to relegate public breastfeeding to the bathroom. God has done nothing wrong in the ordination of breastfeeding as the designed feeding method for children. The culture has made breasts as a primary part of sexuality so pervasive that it’s hard to separate the two, but it must be done if we are to do what is biologically necessary for our children.Here’s the deal. I know guys are usually turned on by breasts. I also know that they are not typically accustomed to seeing a breast with a baby latched onto it. I *know* this is initially unnerving. It’s okay to be unnerved. The Breast as baby food is not part of the American male schema. I acknowledge this, but I do not, for one minute, accept that this means it is to remain that way. Breastfeeding must be normalized in our society. The only way to do that is to keep breastfeeding normally. That means, incidental skin happens, and moms would do well not to stress over it. The occasional flash of areola or nipple as my son unlatches and I pull my bra cup back over my breast is going to happen, and frankly, it’s no big deal if someone catches an accidental glance.It is important to mention, since people’s minds will go this direction, that this does not mean I’m saying don’t take care to avoid exposing undue amounts of skin. I’m just saying that an accidental bit of breast in context is not a freakmeout sort of thing. According to my husband, who a) is a man, and b) does have some interest in sex (what, the 3 kids weren’t enough of a clue?) nursing breasts are not a turn on, and he doesn’t freak out or stress over a contextual and temporary flash of the aforementioned bits of skin.Breasts serve a dual purpose. First and foremost, they serve as the vehicle for nourishment and life for my children. Second, they are a vehicle for pleasure for my husband and myself to enjoy when we explore the completeness of our relationship. The sooner we, as a society, come to acknowledge and accept this, the sooner we will move forward.So gentle readers, if you happen to see a flash of nipple, a peek of areola, or the side of a breast, and your knee-jerk reaction is to think, “Ew–I don’t want to see that in public,” stop. Stop, and consciously change your mindset from “sexual body part” to “body part for kids”. It can be done and it must.In a nutshell, grow up, get over it, and avert your eyes if you can’t.To paraphrase and borrow a bit from Oliver Wendell Holmes, your right to swing your fist of “Ew, I’m offended” ends where mom and baby’s bodies begin. Being squicked out by breastfeeding is your issue, not theirs.
The initial reaction isn’t wrong. It’s choosing to stay in that reaction and attempting to force your preferences on two other human beings that’s inappropriate and needs to stop.
We’ve been trying to conceive since January of 2009. We conceived once in the time since then, and that pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 8 weeks.
It’s hard to be around women that are trying to conceive who have conceived quickly in the past and expect to do so again.
The way they speak of it–as though it’s actually going to happen–is jarring to me.
I am jealous of their innocence and joy in a process that has brought me months of impatience and grief. I don’t know if I believe any more that it’s going to happen. I no longer plan things and add, “If I’m not pregnant by then,” to the end of the thought.
I’m trying to hope. We’re on Cycle Day 27 of Cycle 20, and no ovulation yet. This is most frustrating.
Another client has signed on. I’m very excited. I love my job. Saturday night I had the privilege of attending an amazing mom through her second birth. She worked incredibly hard, and the feeling of power and sense of self she achieved was noticeable. Birth is awesome.
I never cease to be amazed at how every women, even in the throes of the hardest physical work of their lives, are gloriously beautiful. There’s something transcendent about a woman in labor. She’s busy on another plane, and that experience totally transforms her appearance. It’s so very *cool*.
All of them. Even the ones who get pregnant without having had reproductive tragedy in their past. Seriously.
I needed to see it in writing tonight. It seems we’re in the midst of another pregnant women everywhere explosion. I’m so very happy for them. <3
That was the 13th cycle we’d been trying to conceive. It is now the 20th cycle, and still no other conception.
It’s a cold word, and not one I ever thought I’d claim for myself. I’m still not sure that I do. We’ve just been trying to get pregnant for what feels like a long time. Had that pregnancy succeeded, I’d be 36 weeks along, nesting, having tons of prodromal labor, and getting the house ready for our new one.
Instead, I’m fighting a beast of a depression, still trying to conceive, and hating with a vengeance the perfect combination of situation that merits the depression.
You see, it wasn’t “just” the miscarriage that brings this massive funk. Our continued lack of conception is a stark reminder of what we don’t have. Of who we so desperately want.
Someone is missing from our family, and my heart sighs sadly each month when we again discover that the answer is “Not yet.”
You were wanted.
We tried for 9 months to conceive you, and here we are, 6 months after your loss, missing you and still trying.
We are so, so sad you’re gone. Your brothers wish you were going to be here, your dad wishes you were going to be here, and I wish you were going to be here.
I should be feeling you kick. I should be industriously knitting your diaper covers and hats and sweaters and dresses and booties and socks.
Instead, my womb is empty. And my heart is wounded. I know you’re okay. And I know you’re safe. And every fiber of my being wants you here with me.
I know you’re outside of time now, and can see that this is such a small period of time in the grand scheme of things, but Little One, it’s my whole life right now.
I love you, and I’ll miss you until the day I see you again.
Or rather, not the mommy weekend. I’m headed to Texas to celebrate a birthday with a friend. I am so, so, so looking forward to this.
In the meantime, I have to do laundry to take with me, finish up the baby carrier I’m working on, and get somewhere with my not quite Clapotis.
And DH and I just finished and started seasons 5 and 6 of Buffy.
Well. A lot has happened since my last post.
We found out I was pregnant on our 13th cycle of trying in September. We found out I was losing that baby in October after 5 short weeks.
Here is my story:
I don’t want to write this story.
I don’t want there to have been a need for me to write this story.
It will come out in bits and pieces, because that’s all I have.
My husband Brandon said in January of 2009 he wanted to try for another baby.
AF had just returned a couple of months prior. My thyroid was back to normal and had been for over a year after a bout with postpartum thyroiditis, everything seemed right. I had some struggles over the summer with insulin resistance leading to lack of ovulation and generally screwed up hormones.
Toward the end of the summer, I saw my kinesiologist. He gave me three supplements. I had a normal 28 day cycle for the first time in years then. And the next cycle, starting September 2nd, we conceived.
I had a huge hormonal rant, and felt horribly carsick while I was driving that Thursday. 7dpo. Hormonal rants are normal for me, but this one was a little on the nutso side. And carsickness while driving? Not my norm at all.
Pregnant. I was pregnant. I had tested at 9:30 at night after drinking tons of water that day, and being only 10dpo. It worked! It finally worked!
I texted Ashley, Allison, and Bonnie, and IM’d Candice and Amy. I sent Ollie with the positive test in to show Brandon, who “woohoo’d” and came out and hugged and kissed me. Our first three children had required no trying, and it was difficult for us to have tried unsuccessfully for 8 months and 12 cycles with no results.
I found out at 3 weeks and 3 days. Morning sickness came on at 4 weeks on the nose, and got progressively worse daily, with a huge upswing just before weeks. I was plastered to the couch with overwhelming nausea. I have never been so thrilled to feel so awful.
I attended a birth right around 5 weeks. I posted on my favorite message board asking for prayer to prevent sympathy contractions (I usually contract with my clients), and for the morning sickness to not interfere with my ability to help my client through her labor.
It didn’t. It also didn’t return the next day. Or the next. There were off and on bits of nausea, but nothing near the extent it had been the days before my client’s birth.
And now some more.
Off and on I worried. I sought reassurance more than usual. I was so very, very careful about everything I ate and drank. I don’t give up caffeine as a general rule during pregnancy. I didn’t touch coffee, tea, or much in the way of chocolate for those few weeks. I wanted to do everything possible to protect my baby. I had one half-hour round of sharp cramps that I knew were bad. Then everything settled down for the next week and a half.
We told family. We told friends. We told Facebook. After all, my track record was solid.
7 weeks and 6 days: Brandon and I had an argument. Same old communication problems that he has approached the same way since we first noticed it was a problem.
I went to pee. I wiped. And there was blood on the tissue. I kept wiping, and the blood didn’t go away. “God, no. No, no, no, no, no! ”
I got out of the bathroom and called for my husband. He came to the hall gate, right next to the computer the boys play on. Ian was still up. Brandon had let him stay up to play a game before bed to make up some time he’d missed earlier. In between sobs I managed to get out, “I’m bleeding. Oh, God, I’m bleeding. ”
He held me, stroked my hair, shushed me, and told me it was normal and I had done it with the other three. No, no I hadn’t. I’d had some very light spotting at 16 weeks with Ian, and that was it. No further bleeding with anyone. I told him this, but he kept insisting it was normal and had happened before. I knew otherwise.
I called my back up OB’s office the next morning. They couldn’t fit me in for an ultrasound that day–the soonest was November 3rd. The family doc’s couldn’t either. But Stephanie, the coordinator for the office called literally every office in town to fit me in that day. The only place that had an opening was the Radiology department at the hospital.
I headed over, alone. My mom and dad were out of the country, and Robin had to stay with the little boys, and Brandon couldn’t get the time off work.
I checked in and waited in the Radiology waiting room.
The tech’s name was Dawn, and she came out to get me. I’d been reading Dragonfly in Amber, and had reached the part where one of the characters begins bleeding and losing her baby. I found it ironic.
Dawn did a quick swipe over my belly, and I saw a small sac. I could see there was nothing in it. I asked her. She said she saw a sac, but no baby. I expected that. I was sent to empty my bladder and change into a robe for a transvaginal ultrasound. In the bathroom, I noted that my spotting had turned into frank bleeding. I knew it was over.
I went back the room, and she started the ultrasound. She kept asking if I was sure of my dates. I was sure. I should have been 8 weeks. The sac measured exactly 5. She said maybe there would be a chance at a follow up ultrasound on the 3rd. I knew there wouldn’t be and told her as much. I asked for a picture of my empty sac. Evidence that there had been somebody there. And he or she was real. Nobody could take away my proof. I had been pregnant.
Dawn left the room briefly to make sure she had all of the shots she needed. She came back a few minutes later, and it was obvious she had been crying. I felt a sort of detached sympathy for her. It was my way of keeping my own sorrow for myself for later. I remember the stupid probe looking for my left ovary. It was a little up and out of the way. I wanted the probe out of me and I wanted to go home. There was nothing of use in my uterus now, and I wanted it to be left alone. I just wanted to get out of there. I didn’t see the need for any extra measurements. It was a straightforward early miscarriage, and there wasn’t anything else to do but send me home with my empty sac picture to wait.
Dawn had to leave the room again to confer with my family doc and the OB’s office, as well as the hospital’s doctor, who I declined to see. Not knowing if she still needed more pictures and measurements, she had me wait to get dressed. If I’d known she was going to be gone that long, I’d have told her to bring me my book. Instead, I was left in a darkened room, clutching my empty picture and blinking back tears.
Miscarriage involves powerlessness. It just does. There was nothing I could do to save my baby. She was already gone. I knew it. And I laid there, on my back, my legs in stirrups, and the stupid pillow at my back, just so they could take more pictures of my innards if the three doctor’s offices could coordinate their desires. I felt overwhelmed by helplessness, guilt, frustration, despair, peace, and numbness all at once. I just wanted to be with my family. Dawn came back in after what felt like forever, her eyes even redder, helped me dress, gave me another picture, hugged me goodbye, and walked me out to the waiting room.
I called Brandon on the way home. He insisted that there was still hope and we’d know for sure at our follow up. Poor husband. I was sad and angry for and at him all at the same time. I know this stuff. Pregnancy and birth are my line of work. I had enough clinical knowledge to know that there really was no hope. And I was angry that he insisted on clinging to his, leaving me to face the birth of our baby, 32 weeks too soon, alone.
I called Ashley, and we talked until I arrived home. Robin was there. I showed her my picture. It felt good to have someone else see my proof. Brandon came home shortly after that, and the rest of the day is a blur.
The next day, Melissa and my friend Sam came over, brought their kids, and spent the day with me, as Brandon had to go back to work. It was good to have them. There was something comforting about going through my process of loss with friends who had been there before. The noise of the children and the presence of women pulled the experience from grief and horror, to a peaceful sadness, known only to women who have joined the reluctant society.
I spent the day on the couch, snuggling Sam’s new baby girl. I couldn’t cry yet. It was still surreal. I got sleepy, and I recall Sam coming over to the couch, pulling the blanket over me, and tucking Genny in with me. It was soothing to hold her. To know that life could come after an experience like the one I was having brought peace in my grief.
Sam brought a giant stack of mama cloth, and Melissa brought homeopathics and herbs, and I think chocolate. I think I talked to Allison several times that day. Or maybe the day before. And after. I can’t recall when I spoke with her, but I knew it was often, and her presence, calm, strong, and soothing, runs through my whole experience.
I had some cramping and bleeding, but nothing as bad as I’d heard and as bad as my friends had experienced. The next day, my friend Adrienne came by. She took me to the health food store, and we got the homeopathics Allison suggested. Then she took me to Cocoa Dolce for chocolate. On our way home, on a whim, we stopped at Pier 1, and found the perfect slide top box with a blue butterfly on it. It was the perfect size for my ultrasound pictures and my pregnancy tests. I still had them all on the mantle. I cramped and bled off and on for the rest of the day.
The next day was Halloween, and our tradition is to take the kids trick or treating with Robin’s kids. I still hadn’t passed the baby yet, but I had checked my cervix earlier in the day and could feel something there. It just seemed sort of stuck.
Robin and I walked about a block before turning around and coming back to her house to knit and be. Having her with me was a gift. Trick or treating didn’t last long, as the kids were losing patience with it, so we went home and put them to bed.
We got ready for bed, and I got up one last time to use the bathroom. I could tell it was time. I had to push. I was really suprised. I figured it would just drop right out. It didn’t. One huge shove, and in my hand was a tiny placenta and sac. The sac, had it not been broken and disintegrating, would have been the size of a ping pong ball. The placenta, while little bigger than a 50-cent piece itself, was obviously placenta. I set it aside, cleaned up, told Brandon it was over (he didn’t respond), and went to the kitchen to find some sort of way to prepare it.
I examined it carefully. There was a tiny, tiny spot–light pinkish gray, and not the same as the rest of the membranes and placenta, nestled on it. It was too small to see any detail. I rinsed the blood off the placenta and was able to inflate the membranes enough to get some definition. I still think it was one of the most amazing things I have ever laid eyes on. I’ve prepared placentas for encapsulating before. Mine was exactly like the term placentas I’ve seen—just in miniature.
It was not a good placenta. There were spots of calcification on the fetal side already. The shape was right, but the quality felt obviously wrong to me. Something had been very wrong, and for whatever reason, my precious baby was not to breathe on this earth. As heartbreaking as that moment was, I felt enveloped in peace. My clinical mind understood perfectly well–I had my reason. It was obvious to me no baby would be able to survive to term on that. My emotional side felt compelled to care for this little piece of what had been humanity, but was now a shell. My shell.
I had gotten out a wineglass and salt to dry it in–I will decide what to do with it later. Ollie woke up and bleary-eyed, asked for a cracker. There wasn’t anywhere I could put it down. I mean, the kitchen counter was not a place for former uterine residents. So I kept it in my left hand while I got Ollie some crackers with the right. The cosmic irony of caring for the mundane needs of the living while I held the remains of my dead struck me then, and still gives me a somewhat fond pause when I think of it.
I packed the placenta and sac in a wineglass with salt, and stored it carefully in my cabinet. Tomorrow, as the drying process is complete, I will sew it into a small cloth bag, put it in some plastic bags, and put it in the freezer with the boys’ placentas.
When we told the boys, they were heartbroken. Ian and Henry crawled into bed with me, and Ian sobbed and sobbed. My heart broke for them. Henry howled in misery and melted completely down. When the tears quieted, I asked them what they thought. Ian and Henry, of their own accord, insisted the baby had been a sister. Ian was determined that we still name the baby Caroline. To him, her being with Jesus and not with us didn’t mean she couldn’t have a name, and so Caroline she is and was. Brandon is not comfortable assigning gender or name, and so he does not refer to her as such. The boys and I, however, do. We all loved her, and we always will.
Some days are harder than others. Some are easier. I miss my baby through all of them. The one thing that struck me the most, was how very, very much like a term birth experience this was, with the postpartum being the worst of all. The sweats, the shakes, the anxiety, the hormone fluctuations. It sucked. It sucked all the more because there wasn’t a baby to focus on and regulate my rest.
She arrived at 11:56pm on October 31st. She died in my womb around October 8th. Right after the ultrasound confirming her death, I prayed for her arrival to happen within the month. I desired something concrete I could cling to. Ironically, October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month (nice one, universe). I wanted one month as a marker. One month that I could refer to–”I lost my baby in October.” I wanted no more explanation than necessary. If I must be wounded, I wanted it to be as clean a wound as possible.
Praying so many, many times through the whole experience, the words that came to me over and over were “hope deferred”. This is not to be the end for us. So Caroline’s middle name is Hope. Someday we will welcome another baby into our family. We are sad it wasn’t this one.
Our society associates breastfeeding with the very little babies. Most of the moms I know in real life have breastfed, but wean around 6 months. A few more go until 9 months, and fewer still go to 12 months. Most use formula for the last part of the first year.
The image of breastfeeding in the minds of many is exemplified in the image search–the blissful tiny baby with his mother.
The realization was that it feels like that first year was such a short time because it *was* such a short time. The time I spend nursing my toddlers and preschoolers is longer than the time spent nursing my babies.
What a weird realization. It’s something else in which the reality differs vastly from society’s perception.
I tell people one of the first things my kids learn when we move into the discipline phase is how to accept my correction while I’m laughing my head off. This is mostly because the antics are usually too funny for me to avoid laughing. The noticed side effect is that when we’re laughing together, we connect more, and when we connect more, they’re able to hear my heart and somehow understand that I am not requiring things to show off my parental power, but in order to keep them safe and our relationship strong.
By reinforcing the relationship, I am telling my child that I’m in this with him. That I am an anchor for him and he can rely on me. That it’s okay to make mistakes and he won’t lose credibility with me by fixing those mistakes (I abhor I told you sos, and the parental kind are some of the worst). One of the reasons punishment and spanking in particular backfired on me so badly was because it took my focus off of my inappropriate behavior and put it squarely on the immediate relationship with my parents. The infraction was out of my head the second the wooden spoon made contact–all I could focus on was how much I hated that stupid spoon and the pain of it, and how much I just plain hated being powerless.
That powerlessness led me instead to focus on how to gain power for myself, instead of how to examine my heart and ask God to turn it to His purpose. So instead of understanding that I should have left my parents’ room well enough alone, I would instead plan how to get in and not get caught.
I am not perfect. I am very, painfully human. My children are aware of this, and they show me grace every day by forgiving me when I fail to treat them with the love and kindness they deserve as creations of God. I thank Him for showing me a glimpse of Himself through the parent-child relationship, and for trusting me with these three precious beings.